ZenPayroll Gives Small Business the Tech Tools of Big Business

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PhotoZenPayroll specializes in offering smaller companies cloud-based payroll services, like pay, be...

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<ul><li> 1. ZenPayroll Gives Small Business the Tech Tools of BigBusinessPhotoZenPayroll specializes in offering smaller companies cloud-based payroll services, like pay, benefitsand tax withholding.CreditDespite all the talk of this being the entrepreneurial age, the times -- and technology -- still favor thebig guy.According to the Census Bureau , in 1988 45.5 percent of employees in the United States were atcompanies with 500 or more workers. By 2008, the most recent year available, some 50.6 percent ofworkers were at the big shops. Really small companies, with 20 or fewer employees, were ashrinking proportion.There are plenty of potential reasons, including regulation (there's more of it, and big companies areprepared to cope) and market power. In 2007, total company sales in the United States were about$30 trillion, but companies employing 20 or fewer people had just $4 trillion of that total. Of 7.7million businesses on the Census count, 5.5 million were in that small size group, but their payrollwas just $749 billion, out of a total of $5 trillion paid to workers.Maybe the small guys are finally getting the tech tools to be on par with the big companies. Thecompany ZenPayroll, which specializes in offering smaller companies cloud-based payroll services,like pay, benefits and tax withholding, said Wednesday that it had partnerships with a dozen otheronline companies. Those include BambooHR, which offers personnel management, andSimplyInsured, which has health insurance for very small companies.The idea is to offer an ecosystem that helps small businesses pick and choose a set of products thatimitate the kind of business automation available to larger companies.</li></ul> <p> 2. "You have these huge product suitesfrom monolithic business softwarecompanies," said Joshua Reeves, co-founderand chief executive ofZenPayroll. "Companies like Oracle,Workday and ADP typically servelarge enterprises. They aren't in it forthe little guy."All three of the companies Mr. Reevesnamed might push back on that, aswell as being lumped together in thefirst place. Workday, for example,posits itself as a simpler and improvedexperience over the older incumbents.ADP, the payroll company, has over 400,000 companies using its small business product, designedfor outfits with fewer than 50 people.There are some interesting innovations in the smaller companies that may well be suited for wherework is going, however. ZenPayroll tends to take a more worker-centered point of view, so thatpreferences like a person's number of deductions are automatically logged. When someone jumpsjobs - a bigger norm than lifetime employment - that stuff is already known. The employee doesn'thave to sign up for everything all over again.There is certainly no mistaking the importance of size. Workday targets companies with 1,000workers or more, which in 2007 employed 53.2 million of the nation's 120.6 million paid workers.While ZenPayroll says it is processing about $1.1 billion in annual payroll, ADP says it handles $1.5trillion annually in tax, direct deposit and related client funds in fiscal 2014.Mr. Reeves is undaunted. "We help the underdog get that suite of products in an affordable way," hesaid. ZenPayroll charges $25, and $4 per employee, for the first 10 employees, per month. ADP'sservice cost appears to depend on several factors, such as where in the country a business is, butappears to cost several times as much as ZenPayroll. A service from Intuit falls somewhere inbetween."ADP costs quite a bit more, and in the design it feels like a kind of afterthought," said MichaelShepard, president of XShot , a Santa Barbara, Calif., company offering accessories for GoProcameras and iPhones. He has three employees and says he may use more business services if hepicks up a couple of more employees.The ecosystem approach to building a business back office could be a harbinger of the apps-orientedapproach of much consumer software to business: Take the parts you want from here, but also use 3. those over there. More cynically, it could be seen as an alliance of the very small against theexceptionally huge.It could also be a long struggle because companies like XShot have to watch their pennies. There arealso, potentially, conflicts in this choice-rich strategy; among ZenPayroll's partners in thisundertaking are Zenefits, another online benefits and payroll company, and inDinero, which doesaccounting and payroll.http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/03/zenpayroll-gives-small-business-the-tech-tools-of-big-business/ </p>